December 7, 2013, on a clear, cold night, a sold out crowd filled an arena in Redwood City, CA, and witnessed Bruno Escalante best Miguel Ruiz, Jr. via 10 round majority decision to win the IBA junior bantamweight continental championship and saw a slew of Northern California prospects all defeat their opponents.
Promoters Don Chargin Productions and Paco Presents have found a home for Bay Area club shows in the back gymnasium of an indoor sports facility aptly named the Sports House. Located south of San Francisco, the Sports House is within easy driving distance for the local boxers and their gyms, family and friends - the ticket buyers. A busy night of televised boxing on both HBO and Showtime did not keep the fans away.
The ring sat in the middle of a high ceiling steel building partially covered with plywood walls. Indoor heating was not to be found. With only a smattering of spectators still donning their winter coats and hats fifteen minutes before the announced start, the night looked to be frigid and lonely. But the fans kept filing in and filing in, the beers lines kept expanding, and the crowds of leering men surrounding the ring card girls for pictures continued to swell. By the time the opening bell sounded forty minutes after the scheduled start, the room was full with over 1300 people of all ages and races, letting their guard down, smiling, laughing and drinking, a boxing crowd, ready for some fights.
The main event, a 10 round junior bantamweight bout, featured Redwood City, Ca. based Bruno ‘The Aloha Kid’ Escalante, 11(5)-1-1, against Michael Ruiz, Jr., 9(3)-4-1, of Fresno. Serenaded with ranchero music, Ruiz entered the ring in white sequined trunks trimmed with the red and green of the national flag of Mexico. A handful of fans appeared to have made the four-hour drive to support him. When the opening refrains of Kanye West’s ‘Clique’ hit the sound system, the large portion of the arena that made up Bruno Escalante’s fans stood to cheer his entrance to the ring. Escalante wore red shoes and black trunks adorned with patches of the flag of his native Philippines and the flag of his childhood home of Hawaii.
Bruno Escalante fights out of the southpaw stance and usually uses his quickness of hand and foot to land sharp counter crosses and lead hooks against advancing right-handed boxers. Tonight, he faced another southpaw in Ruiz, and both men were left without their usual advantage of facing boxers unaccustomed to seeing punches throw from the opposite side.
Round one saw Escalante landing his jab to the body and the head and, on occasion, landing hooks to the body. He was quicker to the punch. While the round was largely uneventful, the jab, the bodywork and quickness were the foundation that Escalante’s eventual victory was built on.
Escalante won the 2nd round with a good body attack. Ruiz changed the tide of the fight in the 3rd finding success in the mid range and winning the exchanges, landing the harder punches and slowing Escalante’s offensive output. Ruiz continued to press the action in the 4th, closing the gap and catching Escalante on the tail end of the weaving and pivoting exits that Escalante had used to previous success. Ruiz was landing his left and Escalante could not get off his punches. Ruiz was growing in confidence.
Round 5 was the pivotal round of the fight and the best round of the whole night. Ruiz began the round strongly landing a hard hook to the body followed by a rear uppercut and a lead hook to the head. Then, Escalante swung the momentum of the fight hurting Ruiz with a left hook to the body and following it up with both hands, throwing brutal, full power, digging hooks to the body. Ruiz was in trouble and Escalante went for the kill throwing bombs and landing lead hooks to the head, a 3-2 and a 1-6 combination before the bell. Ruiz fought back to end the round, but he would never be the same.
Ruiz had lost the steam that allowed him to close the distance to create a mid range fight. Without a good jab or the ability to throw from the clinch, Ruiz was unable to create offense. His lead hook, an effective weapon against an orthodox boxer, fell short against Escalante, who boxed beautifully the remainder of the fight working off the jab and weaving, ducking and pivoting away from danger.
Both fighters and corners graciously shook hands after the fight. The referee took hold of the boxers center ring for the result. The ring announcer, standing in a neutral corner, revealed a 95-95, 98-92, 97-93 majority decision. Eager with anticipation, Escalante smiled, eyes bright, knees bent, and feet inching toward the announcer, looking like he would run across ring into the announcer’s arms if he heard his name as the winner. And heard his name he did. Surrounded by his team Escalante proudly put on his new IBA championship belt.
In the co-feature, San Francisco’s Jonathon Chicas, 12(5)-1, knocked out Rodolfo Armenta, 13(10)-12-1, of Los Mochis, Mexico, in the first round. Chicas, wearing the blue of El Salvador, continued his development into a more patient puncher from his earlier more aggressive days. Chicas dropped Armenta early with a straight, classic jab-cross combination. When the wobbly Armenta was allowed to continue, Chicas didn’t rush in wild for the knockout, but used his jab until he could land the uppercut that drove Armenta to the corner. Only then did he unleash, finishing the onslaught with a left hook that dropped Armenta hard, causing the ref to stop the fight without a count.
In an entertaining, though one-sided and often ugly, four round junior welterweight fight, Darwin Price, 4(2)-0, of St. Louis, Mo., and training out of Salinas, Ca., defeated Vicente Guzman, 0-3-1. To say Guzman boxes in a crude style is to insult those who hit people over the head with rocks and live in caves. But, he is very strong and comes to fight, even if his fighting is more mauling than anything else. The highly athletic Price, who has been spending time sparring with Marcos Maidana, is long and lean and has the makings of an elegant boxer.
In the first, Price did all the proper things when dealing with a bull rush. He jabbed hard, mix it with the cross and with rear uppercuts when Guzman got close. Price is an extremely accurate puncher and found a home for his right hand by bringing it around to the side of Guzman’s head. Guzman, grabbed, held, head locked, pushed his forearm in Price’s neck, he did what he does. By the end of the 2nd Guzman began to slow after taking repeat uppercut-hook and double jab right hand combinations . My notes of the final two rounds have Price landing too many combinations to list, though he did do a bit of grabbing and holding as well.
Price’s preschool age daughters did not want to wait to hear the across the board 40-36 decision. They climbed the ring steps to see their dad, one with her thumb in her mouth and the other with her stuffed animal dog tucked safely away in its carrying case. By the fourth round of the following bout, they got their wish and were sitting in their daddy’s lap ringside.
Junior lightweight and former amateur standout from San Jose, Ca., Andy Vences, 6(2)-0, entered the ring in gold and black tiger stripe trunks and with plenty of support from his fans armed with camera phones recording his fight. He faced southpaw Victor Capaceta, 3(2)-5-3, of Tijuana, Mexico. Vences spent the first two rounds standing strong in the center of the ring and looking to land hard punches, as both counters and surprise leads. Capaceta touched Vences, but not with any mustard that required Vences to take serious notice. Vences was faster, stronger and with far better technique. Vences was surprising inactive in the third, but returned to form in the 4th to go on to winning a UD.
Returning to action following a brutal knockout loss, San Francisco junior middleweight Ricard Pinell, 6(5)-1-1, went back to winning, knocking out Arturo Brambila, 9(4)-21-2, at 2:55 of the 2nd round.
Jabbing and circling clockwise for almost the entire fight, San Jose light heavyweight Tony Johnson, 7(2)-0, survived a first round knee buckling right hand and lots of looks of disdain from Sinoloa’s Alfredo Contreras, 13(5)-17-2, boxing his way to a 58-56 UD.
Welterweight Chris Batista, 1-0, of Medera, Ca. won his pro debut over, Venito Salazar, 0-1.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV